Rick Barnes Puts A Bow On Vanderbilt Loss, Previews Tennessee’s Matchup With Missouri

Everything Rick Barnes Said After Tennessee Jumped To No. 2 In AP Poll

Rick Barnes Olivier NkamhouaTennessee HC Rick Barnes and F Olivier Nkamhoua. Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the media Friday ahead of the sixth-ranked Vols matchup with Missouri Saturday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Barnes put a bow on the Vols loss at Vanderbilt, briefly discussed Josiah-Jordan James’ injury and previewed Tennessee’s matchup with Missouri.

Here’s everything Barnes said Friday afternoon.

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On what went wrong at Vanderbilt

“Obviously you can talk a lot about the game there at the end with the things we’ve already talked about, but throughout the game, I thought that our turnovers were probably the most disappointing with the way that we turned it over, and by players we know shouldn’t be doing it. Other than that, the biggest thing that I tried to emphasize to our team is that we played the lowest possession game we’ve played all year, and when you’re in a low-possession game, you’ve got to make sure we take care of the ball and the ones we had, we just didn’t do that.”

On why Vanderbilt was able to have success from three

“I thought they got some shots with some good shooters that they didn’t make. Obviously the last play was a breakdown. There’s no question. I think everyone knows that. But they made some shots. I think we know we have to be better with our closeouts and adjust within a game. They had some guys that hadn’t been shooting the ball well that you go into a game with a certain closeout, but once a guy makes one, you’ve gotta adjust. That’s gotta be done spontaneously. It can’t be where we don’t do it. Need to do a better job with our hands up early on all of our closeouts. Didn’t have enough deflections. But overall, probably the most disappointing thing was the turnovers.”

On if they had talked about taking the points prior to Julian Phillips not dunking the basketball at Vanderbilt

“We always say take the points. Take the points. In his mind — it’s all new to him. Everything he’s going through right now is new and I know, I don’t think anybody can say why, because with that much time on the clock, you’re going to have to either make free throws or score the ball, so when you get a wide open dunk, you’ve got to take it. We’ll all learn from it.”

On if he liked how Phillips played outside of the one play at the end of the game

“Yeah, I think he and Tyreke (Key) and Tobe (Awaka) were really good. I thought those three guys really did a lot of good things. Offensively, other than the turnovers that we had, we did some good things that I thought where guys got in rhythm and were doing the things we want them to do. It’s just that a couple tough shots and some careless turnovers, but you expect to be in a close game this time of year every time you go out. Then, there at the end, we didn’t do the things we should have done to close it out.”

On Josiah-Jordan James’ status

“I haven’t heard today. He was walking around yesterday with a boot on and we’ll see today once we see what happens in practice.”

On how he has seen Tyreke Key improve as the season has gone on

“The big thing is that he continues, and the guys have told him, there’s a role that we want him to play and that’s to be aggressive. He’s gotten so much better as a defensive player. We just need him to take shots and not even ever when he gets a chance to do it — and not just take shots — but we think he’s a guy that can score inside, mid-range jump shot, obviously I’d like to see us get fouled more, but I just think he can finish strong for us and I think he will.”

On why he thinks there’s been so many inconsistencies since the Texas game

“That’s a great question. I think that every team hits a point in time where those things can happen. We can talk about it for hours as we do as coaches about different things, but the bottom line is it goes back to and I tell them, winning, you have to choose your hard. Do you want to work hard to be great? Losing is hard. Because if you settle in and think, ‘okay, this is the way it’s going to be,’ it’s hard because of the negativity that comes with losing, so we have to choose the right hard and that’s to come out every day and know that everything we want, especially in February, other teams want, too. We’re a big win for a lot of teams. When we play teams, we have to go into it understanding teams — and we show them. They see it. They can see it when we watch tape and what we think people are trying to do certainly to beat us and teams have done it. That’s about us. I’ve said it all year long. It’s about continuing to get better and that doesn’t mean just as a team. It also means individual guys and know that one game — like this game is going to be totally different than Vanderbilt. We played in the lowest possession game. This might be the highest possession game and it’s where guys have to make those adjustments.”

On last season’s team rallying after January loll, if this team can do the same

“Yeah, I think so. I think there’s no doubt. I’ve got a lot of confidence, we all have confidence. You go through it. Every team has gone through it and will go through it at some point in time. I’ll be just really disappointed if we don’t handle it. I just think we have a group of guys that care about each other, that want to win. Some of these guys are learning for the first time, a lot that goes into this. We’re going to come out and I’ll be surprised if we don’t play hard and know that we want to try to win the next game.”

On what he’s seen from Missouri on film

“They’re different in a lot of ways than the teams in the league. They’re going to change defenses. They’re going to pick you up 94 feet. Very active with their hands and they’ll change their defenses. They’ll do a little different zone pressure on the side and under the basket. They can go back and play some zone. Mainly playing with like-size players. They’re going to switch everything, not afraid to do it. Ball goes inside, if you try to get the ball in there with a guard, they’re going to front and try to get some help from somewhere. A lot of digging. A lot of very active hands. Offensively, they’re going to run and shoot it. Got to take care of the ball. But I just talked about it, got to take care of the ball whether you’re in a high-possession game or a low-possession game. They’re going to be very aggressive.”

On Missouri going from being defensive oriented last season to offensive oriented this season

“I think Dennis has done a really good job in his short time, going in. What he did do, he put together an older team, guys that played basketball for a while. I think there’s no doubt his system is to be aggressive both ways, play at a very high tempo. He’s done a great job. I think he’s done a great job getting the Missouri fanbase back where everybody knows that it is and what it should be. But really a great job by him and his staff.”

On Texas and Oklahoma entering the SEC in 2024

“It’s going to take the best conference and just make it better. Southeastern Conference is the very best, in every way, shape. It’s not just one sport. It’s all sports. It’s a league that produces champions. And you’re bringing in two teams that has just great credentials all the way around. It’s just going to take it from where it is and put even further out front.”

On if there’s been a common theme in Tennessee’s turnover issues

“Different guys. Just different players making passes and things, simple plays. They know. They see it. We can’t make those plays. We’ve got to protect the ball. Again, especially in a really low-possession game, you’ve got to make the other team turn you over. We can’t turn ourselves over.”

On Tobe Awaka playing 22 minutes at Vanderbilt

“I think he’s going to continue to play. Obviously with him, you worry about him early because he plays so hard, foul trouble. But he’s fully put himself into where he’s a big part of our rotation.”

Author: Ethan Moore